A Montgomery County Circuit Court jury has awarded $580,000 to a 45-year-old Silver Spring woman who suffered crippling injuries four years ago when she was hit by an automobile in front of a Luskin's appliance store in Wheaton.
After seven hours of deliberation Monday night the jury found that Luskin's and the store's landlord, Northwestern Mutual Insurance Co., were to blame for the accident because there was no curbseparating a sidewalk in front of the store from the parking lot.
The driver of the car, Peter Vida of Laurel, also was found negligent
Edward Kerman, the attorney for Dorothy Steinberg, contended that the accident-in which a car operated by Vida accidentally Iurched forward into the woman, pushing her through the store's window-could have been prevented if there were a curb at least six inches high separating the sidewalk from the parking lot.
Kerman said yesterday the jury's verdict could have "broad ramifications for at least 150 businesses" in the county that don't have such curbs. He said dozens of automotive experts and highway safety engineers were called to testify during the seven-day trial, "because there is no precedent in the state for an accident like this."
Albert Brault, the attorney representing Luskin's and the insurance company, said he will ask for a new trial. He said the jury was shown numerous examples of businesses and government agencies in the county that do not have curbs dividing walkways from parking lots, including the Rockville courthouse.
"Our contention was that the accident was a freak occurrence that hadn't happened at the store in the 22 years it had been there," Brault said. Brault said there is a slight incline between the sidewalk and the parking lot.
"As far as we're concerned this is still very much a pending case," Brault said, adding that even if a six-inch curb had been there, it would have made a difference.
Steinberg was hospitalized for seven weeks after the Dec. 4, 1974 accident in which she suffered multiple leg fractures and severa tissue and muscle loss. She wears a leg brace today and is able to walk only with the aid of a cane.